tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Vajratantrika » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:24 am

JKhedrup wrote:Posted this in another thread but perhaps it is more relevant to the discussion here. Bhikkhu Bodhi on monasticism in the West:http://www.urbandharma.org/udharma13/challenge.html


What an excellent article Ven. JKhedrup. Thank you for posting this.

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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby kirtu » Tue Feb 12, 2013 12:58 am

Vajratantrika wrote:I particularly liked Thurman's advice to Hyon Gak Sunim in response to the latter's question about setting up a Buddhist temple in the West. I am paraphrasing, but he said something to the effect of...'Set up a very traditional Korean style temple, which will draw sincere students and then over time adapt as needed from there'.


That was very good advice. The question is whether Kwan Um can really do it. They basically thought they did but they have a tendency to eschew scholastic training (and to some degree sutric practice, even for Zen) and to relegate some aspects of the liturgy to traditional superstition.

Thurman is fully traditional in this respect, even with his sometimes wild translations.

It was also interesting to hear Hyon Gak Sunim comment about the various perceptions of monasticism in the West, how being a monk is more accepted in parts of Europe for instance (he specifically mentioned Germany, France, Italy and a few other countries) and contrasted this with the United States where he said it is so out of the norm in the culture that one is perceived as an extreme deviant for being a monk.


That was interesting. When I was a kid, one would often see nuns in particular on the street in Germany. As non-Catholics we knew exactly who they were (of course I and possibly my older sister had gone to German kindergarden run by nuns). I am still surprised by this view of monasticism as deviant and can't agree at all (perhaps because my family on my father's side does have Catholkics and they said positive things about monks and nuns growing up) although I have to agree with his observation. I hadn't really realized that before.

Still I was surprised to hear that Western Buddhist monasticisn is being viewed positively because in the past in Germany in particular there has been a tendency to dismiss eastern religious involvement as a dress up show.


Both Thurman and Hyon Gak Sunim speculated that this may be due to the associated past religious histories of the countries (i.e. Catholic countries are more likely to support monasticism compared to Protestant countries - Germany being an exception).


Interesting observation. Germany is not an exception BTW - that was one of the issues in the central event in German history (now really the second central event unfortunately) - the 30 Years War. Germany is fully Catholic and Protestant just broadly in regions - so the south and the Rhine are heavily Catholic with parts of the former east and the rest of Germany is solidly Protestant. Bavaria in particular has monasteries galore.

I was stunned by Thurman's statement that monasticism is the only historical force that has subdued militarism. This may necessitate a rethink as I have thought that yogic practice is more appropriate for the west as well as instituting temporary ordination.

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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Vajratantrika » Tue Feb 12, 2013 1:46 am

randomseb wrote:One of the problems I am having is that the Western society seems designed around producing more desires, from all the of the advertisements and focus on acquiring things and the constant push to buy buy buy!


I live in the US and concur with what you are saying here Randomseb. I have always felt out of place here. I live rather simply (relatively speaking). I don't care much for accumulating wealth, have only a few material possessions, rent a small space in the bottom of my friend's house, don't have cable or even regular television service turned on (though, obviously I do have internet access), my mobile phone is about 10 years old, etc. I look around me and am saddened by the constant push to 'consume', 'buy', 'progress', 'be successful', etc. I look at the fruits of this mentality and sigh - the decimation of the environment, the high level of diseases such as cancer from all the toxic chemicals being used in our food, high levels of suicide and mental/emotional conditions, the never-ending wars. Such is samsara.

When I have conversations with many Americans, I am usually bored to tears. Most people are so focused on what I perceive to be meaningless externals (what kind of job do you have? House? Car? Clothes? Did you hear the latest gossip about such and such Movie star? Pop musician?, etc.) Don't get me wrong, it is not EVERYBODY that is this way, but sometimes it can feel like that. And I'm certainly not saying I am above it all (I have my own faults for sure), but (again relatively speaking) the contrast can appear pretty drastic at times. Even so, I do feel a sense of warm-heartedness to others, and if I don't feel it spontaneously, I attempt to cultivate that feeling. I fail sometimes. Still working on it!

I am grateful for the Dharma being available, and for having access to unerring teachers.

EDIT: Didn't mean to go off topic. The implicit connection here may be that this is why monasticism can be so important in the West. We need to have examples of people who are closely following the Dharma, to continue to presence this in the Land of Consumerism.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Vajratantrika » Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:28 am

kirtu wrote:Interesting observation. Germany is not an exception BTW - that was one of the issues in the central event in German history (now really the second central event unfortunately) - the 30 Years War. Germany is fully Catholic and Protestant just broadly in regions - so the south and the Rhine are heavily Catholic with parts of the former east and the rest of Germany is solidly Protestant. Bavaria in particular has monasteries galore.


Thanks for pointing this out Kirt. There is a tendency to view Germany as a Protestant country, probably due to the Reformation. I wasn't as familiar with the other aspects you mention. Obviously there are more subtleties than I was aware of. Again, thanks for the 'crash course' history lesson. :)

kirtu wrote:I was stunned by Thurman's statement that monasticism is the only historical force that has subdued militarism. This may necessitate a rethink as I have thought that yogic practice is more appropriate for the west as well as instituting temporary ordination.


I wonder about this myself. It seems it might possibly be an over-reaching conclusion. Is is really ONLY monasticism that has subdued militarism? Was Martin Luther King Jr a monastic? Or Leo Tolstoy? Or groups like the Quakers? (rhetorical questions...none of them were). Or did Thurman mean to limit this statement to specifically Buddhist traditions? I have no doubt that monasticism can assist in this role, but have a hard time thinking exclusively so.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby lama tsewang » Wed Feb 20, 2013 5:45 pm

i think this is a good kittle talk by tenzin palmo
. if you read it youll understand why i started this thread , and also why i am really now starting to take some concrete steps to establish a centre with monasics in british columbia canada.
Please read this link

http://www.thubtenchodron.org/BuddhistN ... astics.pdf
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Vajratantrika » Fri Feb 22, 2013 2:50 pm

lama tsewang wrote:i think this is a good kittle talk by tenzin palmo
. if you read it youll understand why i started this thread , and also why i am really now starting to take some concrete steps to establish a centre with monasics in british columbia canada.


Lama Tsewang,

Thank you for sharing this paper. It was very moving. May the situation for Western monks and nuns unfold in such a way so as to benefit all beings.
May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of ignorance, attachment and aversion.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby JKhedrup » Tue Feb 26, 2013 8:46 pm

HHDL at the recent International Vinaya Conference. Not specifically about Monasticism in the West, but about the importance of monasticism and inter-Buddhist dialogue in general.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eRmry-tGFlA
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby Clarence » Tue Feb 26, 2013 10:41 pm

The paper was from a speech held in 1993. That is 20 years ago. So, has any progress been made? Unfortunately, I doubt it. Also, there is the idea in the west that the west needs retreatants and not monastics.
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Re: tibetan buddhist monasticism in the west

Postby lama tsewang » Tue Feb 26, 2013 11:55 pm

i dont see any difference, except maybe , people will be reluctant to become a monk under a tibetan teacher , because of no training or support etc. being offered .
there is one exceptipon to this, however, and that is the FPMT, they are trying to do more about getting monks training.

I myself am gathering some monks together, and we will , start to take steps , on our own to establish a centre who's permanent residents, and teachers will all be monks and nuns.
Contact me.
if you know anyone who can help with setting up a new website contact me through here.
my webnsite is:
vancouvervinaya.org
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